Jordan Robin The words of music and art aren't strange bedfellows by any means.…
- Posted on Feb 18th 2011 3:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
The campy, creepy, funny clip suits Goodman, whose full-time gig is playing bass with Vivian Girls, Brooklyn's foremost practitioners of eerie neo-Ronettes pop. Chatting with Spinner from Cologne, Germany, "Kickball Katy" discussed writing 'La Sera' and recording 'Share the Joy,' the forthcoming third Vivian Girls album, due out in April. She may not be the knife-wielding maniac she plays in her videos, but she admits her songs are "a little bit weird."
You reportedly wrote the songs for 'La Sera' in a two-week creative burst. Did you know right away they would be for a side project, or did you think some might be Vivian Girls songs?
When I first started writing, I didn't really have anything in mind for them. I wasn't writing with a purpose. One of them almost became a Vivian Girls song, and then it didn't. It kind of became its own thing at some point because I'd written 14 songs, so it kind of became an album.
The songs seem a bit more pared down and haunting than the stuff on the first two Vivian Girls albums. How would you compare these songs to your previous work?
I would definitely not say they're more haunting or anything than Vivian Girls songs. Vivian Girls songs are very haunting. But the vocals are different, just because I have a very high voice, and Cassie [Ramone, Vivian Girls lead singer] has this very low voice. That's the main difference. And I'd say the songs sound less aggressive, but they're equally dark.
Did you approach these songs any differently than you would Vivian Girls songs? Do you generally write on bass or guitar?
The day I wrote my first La Sera song was the day I bought my first guitar, which was in February of last year. I got a guitar at Main Drag in Brooklyn. I bought a cheap guitar and a practice amp, and I went home and wrote a song, and I was hooked. I wrote a lot more over the next two weeks. In the Vivian Girls, I write bass lines and harmonies and song structures and things. I don't sit down and write songs from scratch. This was my first experience.
You mentioned harmonies -- those are a big part of both the Vivian Girls and La Sera sounds. Where does that come from? Did you sing in choirs as a kid or anything?
I did sing in choir. I actually was Maria in 'The Sound of Music' when I was 10 at my elementary school -- the high point of my life. I'm attracted to harmonies for some reason. I think that's because I like older music a lot. There are harmonies in newer music, too. They sound good all the time.
In 2008, the Vivian Girls were just starting out and you talked about how people who criticized the band had unfair expectations. Now that you're more than two years down the line and leading your own side project, do you feel more confident as a musician and songwriter?
I do feel more confident as a songwriter and musician, but I would say back then people formed this impression of us. It's true they had expectations for what Vivian Girls was, because we hadn't released that much music. We hadn't done that much at that time, and people had this different vision of us. Now I would say that people think they know everything about Vivian Girls and La Sera and who we are. It's offered us this opportunity to break through to new ground. People already have ideas about us, and it's been a challenging and fun to break those ideas. That's what the Vivian Girls' third album is trying to do.
What can people expect on that next Vivian Girls album?
The third record is more expansive. There's more of a range of slow songs, fast songs, aggressive songs and there are just [straight-up] pop songs. There's a bigger range of sounds. I feel like the first two albums have a very specific feel, whereas this album is trying to have a bunch of different feels.
When you first started the band a few years back, people talked a lot about the influence of '60s girl groups and Phil Spector. These have since become common indie-rock reference points. Did you know back in 2007 that Vivian Girls were at the forefront of a trend?
Yes, for sure. I guess there weren't that many girl bands around before that, and now there's a lot. But I don't know why that happened. It definitely did happen.
Do you feel at all competitive with groups like Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, and Frankie Rose and the Outs?
No, we're friends with all of them.
There's not even, like, a Beatles-Beach Boys-type competitiveness, where you sort of keep tabs on each other and maybe take inspiration from one another's records?
We probably all learn from each other, but I'm not sure. It's not a competition at all. We're all pretty supportive of each other's bands.
Is this La Sera album a one-off, or will you come back to it whenever you're on break from Vivian Girls?
It's definitely something I'm going to come back to a lot. The second record is already about half-written. That's what I'm thinking about -- what I want it to sound like. I'm definitely thinking of future La Sera songs and records.
You've said in other interviews that you'd like to take a new group of backing musicians on tour every time, just to keep it fresh. In terms of recording, will the next La Sera record feature the same personnel?
I'm not sure. It's probably going to change a lot. The band I'm touring with now, two of the members of this current band won't be with us in March, so it's hard to say who will be in the band six months from now. I'll be in, that's for sure.
Going back to this idea of your music having a haunting quality, something like 'I Promise You' on the 'La Sera' record is deceptively sweet. On one level, it's a love song, but the more you play it, the more it sounds dark and obsessive. Are you conscious of this duality in your music?
Definitely. Something I aim for with all my songs is on first listen for it to be entirely different from how you hear it later on. That song is definitely more of a creepy song than a love song, but sometimes people hear it and they think it's a love song. Pretty much all the songs aren't really about what you think they'd be about. They're a little bit weird.